Those living in Mt. Pleasant may not regularly exerience minority leaders in the community, but Iowa Wesleyan students had the opportunity to hear six speak on the hurdles faced to achieve successful careers.
The event was part of IW first panel of black professionals in celebration of Black History Month held at 7 p.m. on Feb. 4 in the University’s Social Hall. Organized by IW Assistant Professor Stephanie Stubbs, six black professionals from around the state were welcomed to speak to a full room about their experiences in their professions as minority members.
Panelists included Jamarco Clark, the director of student life at Indian Hills Community College, Burlington police officer Jesse Hill, author Kimbery Fittan, vice president of academic affairs at Southeastern Community College Carole Richardson, IW board trustee Betty Mullin and LaSharon Taylor, the founder and CEO of Taylored Life.
During the discussion, the group was asked about the adversity they faced in their careers.
“Being a cop in this day and age with what you see on TV can be rough,” Hill said. “Being a black cop, it’s times two. To some white people, I’m the ‘N-word,’ (and) they don’t want to comply with me. To a lot of black people, I’m a sellout.”
The event was emceed by junior Tierra Jones who came up with many of the questions with Stubbs. Jones is treasurer of the Melanin Appreciation Club, the campus’s black-focused group, and was excited to get to speak to ask the panel about their experiences.
“The idea behind it is understanding their background and seeing that they came from the same campus as us,” said Jones. “(It’s about) looking where I stand and where they are now and seeing we’re not that far apart.”
SeniorDesiree Reyes, the president of the Hispanic diversity student group FUSE, also attended the event after hearing about it from Stubbs.
Reyes lamented that systems of education and business often set up minorities for failure, but was glad to see people who had come out of those systems empowered.
“Especially in such a small town in Iowa, diversity is not something that’s really big unless you come to this school,” Reyes said. “I feel like it was a good way to have minorities recognized for their successes.”
University Provost DeWayne Frazier confirmed IW would be holding a similar panel in either September or October when they celebrate Hispanic heritage.
One of the questions asked of the panel was who from history they admired most. Harriet Tubman and Shirley Chisholm came up, but the most often repeated answer was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Mullin, the panelist who has been with IW the longest, had the opportunity to meet Dr. King when she lived in Mississippi.
“What he was selling was understanding and nonviolence,” she said.
She recalled his visits to her small Mississippi community would be very close, intimate and constructive, an energy she felt was present during the panel.